DEAR KRISTIN: My grandfather recently passed away and my 87-year-old grandmother has just moved in with me until her spot becomes available at a very lovely retirement community not far from me. We’re enjoying each other’s company tremendously. In fact, I’m learning more about her and my family history -- and myself! -- than I ever thought possible. My grandmother’s presence also brings a new tranquility and sense of calm into my home, when before, there seemed to be stress in every corner. I’m seeing a great guy and I have plenty of good friends, so I know it’s not that I’m depending on my grandma to satisfy any longings for human contact.
I think the long and short of it is this: I love having my grandmother close, and she loves being close to me. I’m even dreading the day when the senior center calls to tell us that her name has been taken off the wait list. I think I want this roomie situation to be permanent. We’ve had a few brief conversations about it, and she says she’d love to stay with me, too. I know it’s a big step, but I’m ready to take it. Am I making a mistake? -- GRATEFUL FOR GRANDMA
DEAR GRATEFUL: There’s an upward trend in seniors living with their children and grandchildren, and I think it’s wonderful for a number of reasons. Multi-generational living is customary among many cultures. If you and Grandma get along -- and it sounds like you do -- then why not enjoy the remaining time you have together living under the same roof? Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
You don’t mention if she’s experiencing any physical or mental health challenges. If she is, then the two of you, along with other family members and her doctor, need to discuss whether these issues can be tended to responsibly and consistently if she were to live under your roof -- and by whom. Just because she’d be living with you doesn’t absolve your other family members of their responsibility to play a role in her life.
I notice you use words like “calm” and “tranquility” when you describe what it feels like to have your grandma living with you. In this mixed-up, topsy-turvy world we live in today, having someone close by who can bring this sense of calm into your home should not be dismissed or minimized.
Once you have worked out the practical matters involved with possible co-habitation, then move on to the emotional and spiritual matters. There is, indeed, something stabilizing and connective about being in the presence of our elders: I feel it myself on a regular basis. Tap into this blessing and do whatever you can to maximize it.
Sadly, the window of opportunity for such multi-generational living does not stay open for long, for obvious reasons. That Grandma has lived on this earth for 87 years is a blessing indeed: She has wisdom to share, stories to tell, and new things to experience and learn ... and each day that she’s with you is a gift, just as your daily presence is a gift to her.
Why withhold this beautiful gift from each other if both of you are enjoying it so immensely? And if things take a turn or if it doesn’t work out, you both know that the retirement community is a viable fallback.
My advice is for the two of you to iron out the medical, legal, emotional and practical matters of co-habitation -- in concert with other concerned parties -- and then give each other the greatest gift that exists in the universe: Love.
Then welcome your new roomie with open arms and an open heart.